Bob Hodges graduated with his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Alberta in 1971. He joined the laboratory of Dr. Bruce Merrifield at Rockefeller University in 1971 where he used solid- phase peptide synthesis to study the enzyme, Ribonuclease. In 1974, Bob left the Merrifield lab to accept a position as Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Alberta where he became a founding member of the famous Medical Research Council Group in Protein Structure and Function. Bob remained at the University of Alberta for more than 25 years, publishing prolifically and collaborating with scientists in many other fields, including joining two Networks of Centers of Excellence which involved outstanding researchers from across Canada to work together on research projects that bridged the gap between academia and industry. These Networks included the Canadian Bacterial Diseases Network (CBDN) and the Protein Engineering Network of Centers of Excellence (PENCE).
In 1994 Dr. Hodges took over the leadership of PENCE from Michael Smith, Nobel laureate, and headed this network for 6 years. In 2000 he moved to the University of Colorado, School of Medicine to accept the position as Director of the Program in Biomolecular Structure, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics and holder of the John Stewart Endowed Chair in Peptide Chemistry. In the U.S. he was successful at obtaining NIH R01 grants in diverse areas of science, all applying peptide chemistry, to solve questions about peptides and proteins of biological interest. Bob has won many outstanding awards in both Canada and the U.S. among which are the Distinguished Medical Research Council of Canada Scientist Award. The MRC career awards were considered the most prestigious of such awards in Canada (1995-2000). In 1995 he won the Boehringer-Mannheim Award from the Canadian Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, in recognition of a record of outstanding achievements in research in the field of biochemistry undertaken in Canada by a Canadian Scientist. Recognition followed in 1995 with the Alberta Science and Technology Award for outstanding leadership in Alberta Science.
In 2002, Dr Hodges won the Vincent Du Vigneaud Award from the American Peptide Society for outstanding achievements in peptide research. In 2009 he received the Inventor of the Year Award and in 2012 the Company of the Year Award (PeptiVir, Inc.) at the University of Colorado Denver. In 2013 he won the Murray Goodman Scientific Excellence and Mentorship Award from the American Peptide Society for career-long research excellence in the field of peptide science and significant mentorship and training of students, postdoctoral fellows and other co-workers. In 2017, he received the most prestigious award in peptide chemistry, the Bruce Merrifield Award, for outstanding lifetime accomplishment in peptide research, recognizing the highest level of scientific creativity.
Bob has served the peptide science community in a variety of roles. He chaired the 1993 American Peptide Symposium in Edmonton, Alberta. Interestingly, this meeting had the largest number of attendees of any American Peptide Symposium to date. From 1995-1999, Dr. Hodges served as President-elect and President of the American Peptide Society. He was Co-chair of the Gordon Research Conference on the Chemistry and Biology of Peptides in 2006. He has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Peptide Research, 5 years as associate editor and then on the editorial board of Chemical Biology and Drug Design as well as many other editorial boards.
Dr. Hodges has used peptide chemistry in an exceptionally creative and innovative manner to investigate major challenges in biomedical research. He has published over 560 publications in his career in areas highlighted below:
1. Development of amphipathic alpha-helical antimicrobial peptides as therapeutics. He discovered the concept of "specificity determinants" to remove toxicity to human cells, enhance antimicrobial activity, control gram-negative pathogen selectivity and prevent high-affinity binding to serum proteins. 2. The development of synthetic peptide anti-adhesin bacterial vaccines and antibody therapeutics for the prevention and treatment of Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterial infections.
3. Development of synthetic peptide vaccines and peptide inhibitors to SARS-coronavirus infections. This project led to a novel templated coiled-coil system to present helical epitopes to the immune system. This technology is now being applied to develop a "universal" influenza A vaccine to highly conserved helical regions in the hemagglutinin protein.
4. He sequenced the first two-stranded coiled-coil protein, tropomyosin, during his PhD project and has used coiled-coils as a model system to study protein folding, stability and de novo protein design.
5. To understand the regulation of muscle contraction at the molecular level.
6. Development of new HPLC and capillary electrophoresis methodology.
In addition to his scientific career, Bob also had a career as an elite athlete. He had the distinct privilege of representing Canada in international speed skating. He competed in three World Championships, 1968, 1970 and 1971, and two Olympics, 1968 Grenoble, France, and 1972 Sapporo, Japan.